Pickleball Turf-Wars Are the Niche Drama Ravaging the Country

From the West Village to San Francisco, pickleballers are not ceding their asphalt space.

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Pickleball Turf-Wars Are the Niche Drama Ravaging the Country
Photo:ED JONES (Getty Images)

“The magic of pickleball is it can be played anywhere, on any asphalt,” pickleball player Samir Lavingia told Gothamist. And yet, a small half-block of asphalt in Manhattan’s West Village is where we lay our scene.

Pickleball, the fastest growing sport in Tom Brady’s United States of America, has singled out yet another enemy: children. Corporal John A. Seravalli Playground, a community park that is about as verdant as a 7-Eleven parking lot, is the battleground between pickleballers and the Timothée Chalamets of tomorrow.

Pickleballers have been setting up makeshift courts in the asphalt playground where children normally learn to ride their bikes or reenact Paw Patrol, and the parents of said kids are not happy about it. They’ve brought this issue to the highest court in the West Village: the Community Board Parks and Waterfront Committee meeting. There, parents detailed the horrors of pickleballers “trampling” over their children, while pickleballers have defended themselves by arguing that they come in peace and that their sport is welcoming in nature. They even offered to work with Park Police to help enforce pickleball rules. To that, I’ll just say: ACAPB (all cops are pickleballers) and should not be trusted, much like the pickleballers themselves.

On the other side of the country, in yet another coastal elite enclave, a war is being waged over this new sport. Like the invasive lantern fly, San Francisco’s pickleball community has descended onto the city’s tennis courts. The tennis community in SF is reluctant to lease their asphalt space to this underclass. The one afternoon I enjoyed myself as a pickleballer outside of Seattle, Washington, I was asked kindly but sternly by tennis players to hightail it off of their courts. Where is safe for the pickleballers to call home? If they can use any asphalt space in the whole wide world, why are they consistently starting literal turf wars?

But even greater questions loom: Why are pickleballers the biggest threat to our country’s public space at this moment in time? Where did this sport come from? Are the balls literal pickles?

While outwardly friendly, it seems pickleballers have no plans to cede their domain. Their next victims? Motorists. Lavingia coyly suggested to Gothamist, “I’d encourage the Parks Department to also work with the [Transportation Department] to see if there are nearby roads that can be closed and turned into pickleball courts.” In a pickleball world, nowhere is off limits. No one is safe. All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely pickleball players.

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